I’m pumped to present an interview with a collector who I sincerely look up to – Wolff aka ‘Wbobafett on Rebelscum, The Imperial Gunnery and Star Wars Forum UK. Wolff is one of the hobby’s leading variant collectors and when I decided to create this blog, he was one of the first people that popped into my mind as potential interviewees. The work he has undertaken on the COO guide is phenomenal, so good in fact that I voted him as one of the Scummers of the year of 2013 (the entire Rebelscum thread is here – http://forum.rebelscum.com/t1105235/). Not only is this outstanding work but he also seems to me to be very modest about it. I’m a variant collector myself so obviously I appreciate the work he has done and hopefully will continue into the distant future
If you haven’t seen Wolff’s COO guide or his amazing website, don’t wait one second longer!
Now to the questions!
1. Hi Wolff. Welcome to the blog and thanks for joining us. I know you’re a busy man, especially these days, so I appreciate your time. So you’re German right? Germany is one of my favourite places in the world. Where are you from exactly?
W: Yes I am from Germany. I come from “Baden-Württemberg” and was born near Stuttgart. I still live near Stuttgart…well at least kind of 😀
2. Is there much of a collecting community there?
W: Oh… sadly not. I guess you have much better chances of finding collecting buddies in the far north of Germany. In the far south of Germany the collectors seem to be more shy and do collect more “off the radar”. Some are on the forums but never post, most are just out there…staying unknown. I met a handful of those collectors in Stuttgart once. All of them mostly collect MOC stuff, AFA and have their loose set but no-one has what “we” call the “variant bug”…hahahaha….pity though.
The internet is my (only) way to talk to persons with the very same interest :D. So actually only one of the “variant guys” out there has seen my collection in person: Kenneth_B.
3. Did you get the chance to go to CE2 (Star Wars Celebration Europe 2)?
W: Yes I was at CE2. Only for one day, but it was worth it. I think because I rarely see collectors in person I was a bit too shy to talk to everyone that was there. I just couldn’t do it: Hey Gus Lopez…I am Wbobafett (Wolff) the variant “idiot” from Germany….nahh…that wasn’t really my thing, but I stood next to a lot of the famous guys and listened to them talking to other scummers….great fun though 😀
4.What do you do for work?
I am an art restorer, mainly paintings and sculptures. I am a freelancer, so I am often on the road. I still don’t have “internet” when I am away from home…no smartphone etc. I can assure you that makes people go crazy….”How can you bid on ebay stuff, read the forums, etc. ???….well it is simple: I just miss it! All the time! LOL!
5. I’ve seen photos of the star wars dioramas that you made. They really are a sight to behold and I don’t think I’ve seen a better collection set up. Is this is a skill you’ve acquired during your professional career or did you just learn as you went along?
W: Thanks for the kudos. 😀
I would say it is kind of both reasons. I am of course not bad with my hands, otherwise I wouldn’t have studied restoration of art. On the other hand I was never shy to try things and I love to “solve problems” (manual problems of course). I built lots of stuff as a kid and my father built great stuff for me too…always. So it’s kind of a tradition. We both have very messy hobby rooms with lots of stuff laying around that should be repaired, built or just is exploited.
VSWC: Some of Wolff’s amazing dioramas. Take a deep breath before you open these thumbnails!
W (continued): I really hope that one day every diorama is finished like I want them to be. But it is very similar to my collection. You are always close…but never finished. My current project is building the Khetanna (Jabba’s Sailbarge) for 3 3/4″ of course. I really got this going on but then I was missing some spare time and it was laying around for …hmm…nine months or so. I am now back trying to finish this project….sometimes frustrating but mostly lots of fun and a real challenge.
6. You also seem to be a master at identifying paint discolouration, issues with plastic degradation etc on vintage figures. Where did you pick up this skill?
W: Uhmm…wow…okay….I think master is a bit too much. I do my best!
In general it is a mixture of common sense and decades of experience. I grew up in a family of collectors. I’ve been going to flea markets and toy markets almost every weekend since I was born. I am very familiar with every kind of damage to tin toys, celluloid dolls, wind-ups toys, trains, action figures, comics etc.
I also started collecting “Kinder-Ferrero” figures when I was a kid. There were lots of high priced accessories that were nearly perfectly faked in the 90s. People started to use the UV light for those already in the 90s.
And of course it is again my profession that helps me a lot. You need to know every chemical process on colors, adhesives and other materials before you start restoring a painting. I am very good with colors on paintings therefore, but most of the theoretical and chemical reactions can be transferred on the figures’ paint as well.
8. Do you get much time for other hobbies?
Other hobbies?? I don’t have other hobbies. Well I have my own family now and I like to watch movies and television series. All my spare time I have I spend with my daughter right now….and sometimes sneak out to quickly check what’s going on in the SW-universe 😀
9. You are the one of a handful of people that really are active on the three main forums – RS, TIG and SWFUK. Do you have a favourite?
W: Aren’t there more people active on all three forums?? If I think this through you might be right. Well there are some “issues” between TIG and SWFUK so most people choose only one of those….just a guess though.
I personally do not have a favorite and when I do have one it can change any time.
TIG is known for its variant guys and experts on loose weapons. Rebelscum just has gathered the largest wisdom on all stuff surrounding the SW vintage collecting. SWFUK is the most “honest” forum out there. You can meet nice people and friends in all three forums so why not be a member on all three….and honestly I am member on quite a few other forums… 😉
VSWC: You’re right. There are many other forums, I should have said ‘English speaking forums.’ From what I know there is a pretty popular German SW forum and also a big Spanish one, not sure about languages. I would have also mentioned Joe’s fantastic forum Trilogo.info but this is more of a niche forum.
I’ve always been curious why there is so much discussion about variants on TIG. Is there a reason why so many variant collectors are so active on that forum? I mean why not on RS for example?
W: The discussions on RS were pretty much “useless” when it came to variants. It mostly got out of hand and the majority of the variant hunters didn’t post anything anymore. The newly formed and published TIG was a kind of a collecting pond for frustrated variant hunters I think?
10. I haven’t seen you around the Facebook groups though? Have you given them a try?
W: I am not on Facebook…not even private. I quit Facebook eight years ago or so for several reasons. I have no interest at all joining it again. It might be fun but from what I am hearing it is even worse with all the hassle and stuff?!?!?
VSWC: I can’t argue about there being a lot of dramas on Facebook. Something definitely has to be done to improve the experience but I guess these groups are all quite nascent so hopefully they will improve over time. Facebook is a great way to meet other collectors though. Maybe we’ll see you back one day 🙂
11. I have a few questions about your variant collecting now. How long have you been doing it and how did you get so utterly deep into it in the first place?
W: That is a good question. I have been asked this a lot of times and the answer can’t be given exactly.
I am way too young so I actually only had one figure from the stores: Klaatu. The rest of my childhood figures came from my father who bought them at flea markets and gifted me one from time to time, you know…for washing the bicycle or dusting his collection etc.
When I was older I started to recognize variants on those. I had a Trilogo Fett and I was able to buy a vinyl cape Jawa at the flea market myself. So I was always looking for Stormtroopers and variants.
I started to collect online around 2000. I already had a big collection with about 200 figures and several ships from flea markets. First mistake: I bought repro weapons to complete my childhood collection…..just to burn them all five years later….Dooooohhhhh.
From then on I collected on ebay, always looking for variants. I browsed webshots for pictures to learn about variants. In 2008 I joined RS and from then on I really learned a lot and it took me to a much higher level.
So over all you can say:
1986-1999: Trying to build a complete set (only missing Blue Snag and Luke Stromtrooper)
2000-2008: Buying main variants and foreign variants (GL, TT, LL)
2008-today: Research research, research. Trying to bring light to several collecting areas: weapons, coos, Lili Ledy, PBP, Poch etc
12. So how many variants do you actually own then?
W: Hahaha…good I just updated my Excel-file! 😀
But the answer isn’t that simple after all. Coo-research is done for me. I am trying to downsize and I am sorting out many figures, back to the roots if you will. I am trying to build a variant collection again with the bonus of what I have learned by doing the coo research. What is left is making those final Coo-sheets. Some are done…some not. So being in the middle of a change I have exactly 1003 figures plus 55 bootlegs and of course fodder box and spares. Most of them are complete. I am guessing that 250-300 figures will need to go….though. The more interesting question is what is really left??
VSWC: Wow that is amazing! You have a couple more variants than me…So can you make a guestimate about how many are left for you to find?
W: There will be always figures I urgently need to upgrade, but really missing is only one figure at the moment. 😀 Well maybe five or six more minor ones but mainly one. What is missing mostly here is some of the rare accessories I really would like to add, i.e. my second pair of LL CCP (Cloud Car Pilot) accessories and a lot of PBP weapons. And of course I am still missing a few grail pieces bootleg wise….if I only could find that Polish Leia.
VSWC: Some of Wolff’s breathtaking collection!
13. To your mind what is the hardest to find variant?
W: Depends what you call a variant 😉
Coo-wise and variant wise it should be the scarred out PBP Luke Farmboy. There are lots of figures out there that are extremely rare but to be honest 99 percent are just mass produced. Some are rare but can always be found, most are just common. But as said: some you have one chance in your lifetime to get them….better be there 😉
VSWC: How many scarred out PBP Luke Farmboys are confirmed to actually be out there?
W: Difficult question because rumours and people claiming to have one are out there from time to time! Uncracked with original PBP saber – there is only one IMO and it is mine. But there must be more in collections still in the dark. I have seen pictures of three loose ones in collections. There are many more MOC figures especially because this variant is a) very unknown and b) seemed to have appeared on several cardbacks (PBP, German and Palitoy) but thanks to TT (Toy Toni) we will never know for sure….
14. I know that variant prices have dropped in the last couple of years. In your opinion will this trend continue?
W: This is not completely true in my opinion. It always depends on what you are looking for.
PBP, POCH and Lili Ledy went down. Some more, some less. Common variants also went down, maybe because they are really common?? Glasslite and TopToys took a huge step upwards in the last few years. Similarly for bootlegs – Mexican and Polish went down, Uzay and Polish originals went up. It is and will always be the “taste of the month”. I can see why many people are a bit fed up with the things that went down. Many, many important people turned their back on variant collecting. Very new ones are filling these gaps. In my opinion there is a lot of information that was lost between these two generations. There are a few guides and webshots albums that are not known these days, this information is lost forever if you will. Newer collectors are confused because of that lack of information. I can see that especially with Spanish figures: the overall view and the developments made since 2008 can’t be seen…which is kind of sad.
But on the other hand I cannot see why some of the PBP figures that are clearly different have dropped that much. Seems like most collectors do not appreciate those figures that much anymore. Kind of sad, because I would have killed (nearly.. 😉 ) for some of those a few years back.
15. Thanks for that market analysis Wolff! Very informative. So now to your COO guide. When did you first start working on it?
W: Must have been in the early part of 2008. I noticed that combining my finds with Rog’s guide was already huge and wondered what more would be out there.
16. Is the COO Guide 3.0 finished yet?
W: It isn’t finished yet…sadly. For me personally it is very boring to do those COO sheets. I have examined COOs for nearly a decade and I know them all. The first guide was a journey, and with the help of fellow collectors there were lots of new things that were discovered. The COO guide 3.0 is simply writing down what’s in my collection and head. But never say never…..especially Patrick (pattejan) and Alex (General Kahn) could find a few minor variants I didn’t know about. So especially ANH was great fun to finish.
VSWC: Do you think you’ll continue producing these guides? I hope so, as I’ve pretty much learnt most of what I know about COO variants from your site.
W: I am not sure if I will make further guides. With the COO guide 2.0 I just wanted too much. It should include 1) COO variants 2) side by side comparison 3) mold comparison 4) color comparisons etc. I simply gave up, especially because the templates were horrible to change if something new popped up. I can see now a few guides that are in the making I always wanted to do, and I think they are in good hands.
I always made guides for my own fun, not to manifest an investment. With my family growing and me being finished with my collection (nearly) I think I won’t start new guides in future. the younger ones are faster anyway 😀 😉
17. Do you feel that your work on the guide is appreciated in the collecting world?
W: Depends. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I get lots of positive feedback, mostly in private via PM. On RS I always missed the support from the “inner circle”. On TIG I was never asked to be in the Dev Team ….etc. I know I have my outs here and there and I won’t complain…..but I would have wished for more support from time to time. I cannot thank enough Shawn_K for the possibility he gave me. Also Joe_O and Chris_B always supported me, even though none of them has the variant bug or collect COOs. A few of the guides wouldn’t have been possible without them!
18. You are arguably one of the variant collecting masters, which I’m sure you’re too modest to admit but who are the other big variant collectors out there?
W: Hahahaha…oh well. First of all: I am not the only variant collector out there. There are lots of great collections out there and by far better ones as well. I personally love focus collectors, they do know their stuff much better. So General_Kahn (Luke Bespin), psybertech (Leia Bespin), cocofstar (Yoda), M4K3R1 (Vader) and many more have great collections!
Some of the variant guy’s collections are known (mostly), like Kenneth_B, Mike_Skywalker and some stay unknown, but I can assure you “just wow” like Lee_M, Ilseeker (Carlos) or Javiswspain and Sergio. I am sure there are many people out there with incredible collections…..not sure how many grails DrDengar and Walkie already have hoarded…though.
I personally think HWR (Henrik) is going the best way. He is patient….god is he patient…..he only collects true and significant variants (whatever that means)…is slowly building and never gets tired! I like this way of collecting….he takes his time….whilst all the new guys always seem to be in a rush….and you never know when someone is selling it all again looking for new goals…..Henrik will keep his collection forever I am guessing…..so will I hopefully!!
19. Before we finish I have to congratulate you on your latest hard to find variant. Do you want to tell us a bit about that?
Oooooohhhh…..you must mean my little babygirl…not that Palitoy three-legged R2 I just found….. 😀 😀 😀
Kidding aside, she is the love of my life! It is great to be a dad, and especially a girl I am guessing. I never understood other parents reporting every little step their kids do, but I do understand now….”WOHOOO….she turned around the first time!!! “..”Wohooo….finally the diapers are…..” well… guess you do not wanna hear this, but it is correct: You are happy with every little step your miracle does. It never gets boring!
VSWC: Well thanks Wolff for joining us. Has been great to pick your brain a bit and to learn more about you, your collection and your views on the hobby.
W: It was a pleasure and an honour Christian. I have to thank you for giving me this opportunity. Thank you and thanks for reading everyone.